The Acura ILX started life in 2012, and from there the rebadged Civic hasn't really lived up to its Integra lineage. Acura's entry point is getting its second styling update since its inception, and a mere three model years since its last refresh. The styling update isn't the only good news for prospective ILX shoppers — Acura also dropped the price and added a series of tech features that sweeten the pot. But first, the design team at Acura nipped and tucked the entry-level sedan and injected life into the aging styling,. The ILX gets new front and rear fascias, with the former falling in line with the rest of the current Acura lineup. Essentially, that means the ILX bears the Acura diamond grille, a new bumper cover, LED headlights and sheetmetal. At the rear, the ILX gets a new decklid, rear bumper cover and LED taillights. The folks in Acura’s design department also moved the license plate from the decklid to the bumper cover, which sounds insignificant but makes a massive improvement to the ILX's rear styling. Of course, it will take more than a new look for the ILX to inspire sales charts — a place where Acura only moved 930 of these last month. For 2019, the small Acura will come standard with Acura’s suite of driver assistant features. Dubbed Acurawatch, the package includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane keep assist and road departure mitigation. Acura also added some extra entertainment tech with an optional dual-screen infotainment system that comes packed with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s an optional audio system above that, which will set you back another $1,700, though it also adds navigation. The rest of the interior got worked over too, with red leather making an appearance on the ILX A-Spec option sheet for the first time and espresso leather becoming available for the rest of the trims. The upholstery covers reshaped front and rear sport seats. The seats themselves are comfortable, but don't hug your body like a pair of Recaro buckets. There are also minor updates like chrome trim surrounding the push-button ignition, but you’d be hard pressed to tell these subtle changes from the outgoing model.
The Execution Despite looking for ways to make the ILX more attractive to younger buyers, the ILX's powertrain doesn’t change at all from the previous model year. Under the hood of every ILX is the same 201-hp, 2.4-liter I4. Power comes on naturally, with no major surge when you hit the VTEC part of the powerband. Transferring that power to the front wheels is an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s no manual option for those who want to row their own gears, but there are standard wheel-mounted paddle shifters to at least make you feel like you’re in control. Though it might not have a ton of power on paper, the 2.4-liter moves the ILX along nicely. Of course, you’ll want to wring out as many revs as possible to really get it to hustle, but that’s no problem for the heavy-footed among us. The eight-speed dual-clutch has surprisingly quick downshifts and doesn’t hesitate to drop two gears at a time if you’re not going to send the engine immediately to its redline. Upshifts are slower, but not sluggish. The paddle shifters give you some of the experience of controlling the engine’s revs, but it’ll automatically upshift if you bring the 2.4-liter to the end of its range — no bouncing off the rev limiter in this one. The suspension also carries over from the previous model year. MacPherson struts control the wheels up front and a multilink suspension takes care of the rear. Even with the optional 18-inch wheels and Continental SportContact rubber the car feels smooth. The steering is numb, but the car goes where you point it. You won’t get much feedback from the steering wheel either when driving aggressively, but most buyers probably won’t autocross their new ILX.
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More importantly for the prospective ILX buyer, the cabin is quiet on the highway. On louder roads, you’ll hear the tire noise, but on smooth concrete or asphalt, the chassis and suspension is silent. There isn’t a ton of wind noise either. Alternatively, if you snag the optional 10-speaker sound system, most of that becomes moot, as you’ll be able to drown it all out with your tunes. The dual-screen media system is straightforward and easy to navigate, in theory. When you activate Apple CarPlay, the imitation iPhone screen goes to the top of the two screens, which is then controlled by a knob on the center stack — instead of the ultra-intuitive touch screen approach. Still, you’ll be able to get your music playing, and your Apple navigation working. The system is quick to launch CarPlay, and is responsive. The standard driver assistance package is helpful on the highway, with the adaptive cruise working well at speed. The controls are easy to manage, with the distance setting a thumb's reach away from the cruise control button. The lane keep assist is relaxed, only correcting you when you’re veering out of your lane — unlike other systems that take a more aggressive approach. The system doesn't carry you around corners, like Volvo, Mercedes-Benz or Tesla, but it does bounce you back into the lane if you're not being as dilligent as you should be.
The 2019 ILX carries its second refresh well, but it’s still wallpapering over an aging platform. With the automotive world jumping in leaps and bounds, the 6-year-old bones of the car feel old. However, the standardized driver assistance features manage to bridge the chasm and bring the ILX, at least technologically, up to date. Acura might have felt that the ILX was getting a little stale too, cutting the price accordingly. The folks in charge “repositioned” the ILX $2,200 cheaper than the outgoing model. With the fresh new look and new price, Acura could still squeeze some life out of its entry-point sedan.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $30,645
Powertrain: 2.4-liter I4, eight-speed DCT; FWD
Output: 201 hp at 6,800 rpm; 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,095 lbs
Fuel Economy: 24/34/28 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: The refresh looks good and the standard Acurawatch is a big step in the right direction
Cons: It’s an aging platform and you feel that in the interior